Great Expectations: 4 Ways The Needs and Sophistication of Advisors and Their Clients Have Evolved the Industry
Advisors – whether they sit within traditional firms as employees or are owners of independent practices – have expectations that are far different today than they were just 5 years ago.
In today’s environment, clients expect their advisor to serve them in a greatly expanded role, evolving from stockbroker to financial advisor to Chief Financial Officer of their entire lives. As the clients’ needs and expectations have evolved, the advisors have responded in kind, raising their own expectations of themselves and of the firms they work for. No longer operating blindly as loyal “company men and women,” advisors recognize that they have many legitimate options from which to choose. It’s this powerful combination that has resulted in advisors raising the standards – for what they need – and want – for their business lives, and a willingness to solve for what they find lacking.
To be sure, consider the following:
- Advisors think like business owners
They want the flexibility and autonomy to control how they run their practices, as well as to control the client experience, deciding the best service model along with the right wealth management approach. Thinking like a business owner also means they want to monetize their life’s work by way of one or multiple liquidity event(s), or to reinvest in the business by acquiring another book, thereby positioning themselves for additional growth. This also means that they want to provide continuity for their clients by controlling when and to whom they will pass the torch, creating the next generation of the business.
- Advisors are more confident in the strength of their personal relationships with their clients
Advisors believe they provide a unique value as they help clients achieve life goals—a far cry from the primary role of “stockbroker” a few years ago. Since clients value the personal relationship with their advisor – and are less likely to see them as an interchangeable commodity – advisors feel a responsibility to identify a successor for their business. They are no longer content to have their assets divvied up by someone else, or to simply walk away at the end of their career. The dilemma is that advisors aren’t confident that the right successor will actually be found at the appropriate time. Given the aging advisor population and the overall shortage of next generation talent (who have a multitude of options from which to choose), firms and individual advisors are competing for a scarce and increasingly valuable supply of appropriate successors.
- Technology is critical
Advisors incorporate technology into every aspect of their lives. They expect efficient, reliable and intuitive capabilities that allow them to remain competitive. They also want access to products and the other resources their clients have come to expect, with as close to open architecture as is allowable. Advisors want to be able to communicate with clients, prospects and team members using every vehicle available – including social media – whether they are in the office or not. Advisors also want to meet their clients’ growing expectations for high quality, easily accessible, and fully comprehensive statements and reports. All this allows advisors to deliver a high touch, yet scalable, client experience. In essence, they want to incorporate Robo-Advisor technology into their toolboxes, but not be replaced by it.
- Near perfection is within reach
Advisors today have a stronger belief that near perfection is achievable; that they need to settle less in making choices about how best to serve their clients and live their professional lives. They want to enjoy the business again, and they recognize that there are more legitimate options and solutions than ever before. They can have it all—a strong platform, great support, fair economics and a high quality of life.
These evolved expectations have created the “new normal” for the industry, paving the way for greater opportunity not only to deliver a quality experience to clients, but to provide a wide field of options from which to service them. It’s a win-win environment for advisors and their clients, as advisors are taking greater control of their businesses, seeking out options that provide greater flexibility, freedom and control, and defining a “more perfect” environment that meets all expectations.
As advisors have become more sophisticated and clearer about what they want and expect they’re entitled to, the landscape of the industry has been forced to respond. The result: the balance of power has definitively shifted to the advisor.
It’s a time of unprecedented opportunity: Advisors who have identified their goals, are willing to educate themselves on the landscape and measure their options against where they are currently, will thrive and be rewarded with expectations that are not only met, but surpassed.